The cell fate decision leading to gametogenesis requires the convergence of multiple signals on the promoter of a master regulator. In fission yeast, starvation-induced signaling leads to the transcriptional induction of the ste11 gene, which encodes the central inducer of mating and gametogenesis, known as sporulation. We find that the long intergenic non-coding (linc) RNA rse1 is transcribed divergently upstream of the ste11 gene. During vegetative growth, rse1 directly recruits a Mug187-Lid2-Set1 complex that mediates cis repression at the ste11 promoter through SET3C-dependent histone deacetylation. The absence of rse1 bypasses the starvation-induced signaling and induces gametogenesis in the presence of nutrients. Our data reveal that the remodeling of chromatin through ncRNA scaffolding of repressive complexes that is observed in higher eukaryotes is a conserved, likely very ancient mechanism for tight control of cell differentiation. Fauquenoy et al. report the first example of a yeast long intergenic non-coding RNA (lincRNA) that regulates the expression of the neighboring ste11 gene through scaffolding of a repressive complex. This constitutes an RNA-based mechanism of repression of cell differentiation.